Sat, Oct 19, 2019 - Page 3 News List

Shen downplays effect of ending ECFA

BENEFICIARY?The government should pre-emptively terminate the trade agreement with China if its adverse effects outweigh its advantages, the NPP’s chairman said

By Sean Lin  /  Staff reporter

Premier Su Tseng-chang, right, and National Development Council Minister Chen Mei-ling attend a meeting at the Legislative Yuan in Taipei yesterday.

Photo: Tu Chien-jung, Taipei Times

Minister of Economic Affairs Shen Jong-chin (沈榮津) yesterday said that if China unilaterally terminated the Economic Cooperation Agreement (ECFA), the estimated impact on the nation’s trade revenue would be less than 5 percent.

Shen was responding to New Power Party (NPP) Chairman Hsu Yung-ming’s (徐永明) question about his earlier statement about the trade agreement.

The ECFA, signed in 2010, can be renegotiated by Taipei and Beijing starting from June next year.

Asked if the ECFA is beneficial for Taiwan, Shen told the legislature that it is a complementary, mutually beneficial mechanism for industry chains on both sides of the Taiwan Strait.

However, in light of the US-China trade dispute, many Taiwanese companies have realized the importance of establishing manufacturing chains in countries other than China and have been setting up operations in Southeast Asia, Shen said, adding that this would help mitigate potential negative effects if China were to end the agreement.

Citing a Facebook post from 2013 by then-Democratic Progressive Party chairman Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) — now the premier — that showed a group of businesspeople advising Su about the potential negative effects ECFA could have on local industries, Hsu said the ministry should proactively evaluate the pros and cons of ECFA.

The nation should pre-emptively terminate the ECFA if the cons outweigh the pros, so the Chinese government could not “hold the issue over the nation,” he said.

Hsu also asked Council of Agriculture Minister Chen Chi-chung (陳吉仲) whether the nation’s signing of a letter of intent last month expressing its interest in buying US$3.7 billion of soybeans, corn and wheat from the US would compensate for the nation’s ban on US pork containing ractopamine and bovine intestines, thereby facilitating the signing of a free-trade agreement (FTA).

Chen said the nation procures the three crops from the US every two years, as domestic cultivation can only fulfill about 5 percent of domestic demand.

The planned procurement and the signing of an FTA are two separate issues, he said.

That being said, the procurement of the three crops has helped bilateral trade negotiations, he said, citing Washington’s agreement on Thursday to buy guavas from Taiwan.

Hsu asked Su whether the government could strike a similar deal with Tokyo to boost the nation’s chances of joining the Japan-led Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) as an alternative to removing the ban on imports of food products from Fukushima and four surrounding Japanese prefectures.

Japan’s minister of foreign affairs has said that Taiwan’s reluctance to import food products produced in the areas after the 2011 Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear disaster is the main reason preventing Taiwan from joining the CPTPP.

Su said the government respects the result of a referendum last year that favored maintaining the ban and in the interest of public health, has no plan to allow food imports from those areas

However, the government would endeavor to find alternatives, he said.

Taiwan’s prospects of joining the CPTPP are not as bleak as some have suggested, the premier added.

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